The Local Plan and the Green Belt: an Inspector calls

LETTER

It’s well over a year now since our local councils submitted their “Local Plan”, directing development in the city and surrounding areas until 2031. This, of course, will have varying degrees of impact on all of us as residents. Since then, the plan has been in the hands of government inspectors, and representations from local residents have been heard, a number of them from Queen Edith’s.

For many, the main issue with the Local Plan is whether or not it protects the city’s Green Belt. The plan’s authors at the council argue that it does, by directing the region’s expansion to new settlements outside of the city. Many campaigners aren’t so sure, however, citing its acceptance of two housing developments right here in Queen Edith’s, on Wort’s Causeway. These developments clearly have insufficient transport infrastructure, but their real problem is that their very existence appears to signal an acceptance by the city that building on the Green Belt is permissible. How much further could it then go, under pressure from developers?

This week the government inspectors made an initial response to what they’ve heard, and they’ve asked for more evidence to be provided from the councils on the justifications for their plans. Apparently, this is not unusual in such situations. I asked our new MP, Heidi Allen, for her thoughts, and she likened it to a teacher saying: “You’ve got a decent answer, but now go back and show me some better working”.

Unfortunately the letter is open to different interpretations.

It’s possible to read the letter as suggesting that the inspectors believe the councils’ priorities and justifications are confused, and that building on the city fringe might meet the aims better. However, others suggest that the letter is mainly intended to point out that the overall strategy of building new settlements outside the city simply needs to be further substantiated. It is not being rejected.

Robin Pellew, the chairman of CambridgePPF, says his organisation “will be urging the Councils to stand firm and not to ditch the strategy of new settlements rather than urban extensions. We will work with the Councils to show that in the long-term, development through well designed new settlements with fast and reliable public transport links is more sustainable than trashing Cambridge by allowing large-scale metropolitan sprawl around the fringes. We will also be pushing for a number of additional sites in both the city and South Cambs that are not in the city fringe to be included if the re-working of the modes shows that more housing is needed”.

He continues: “This is a time when the councils need to show leadership”, and encourages those wishing to protect the Green Belt to write to the Leader of the City Council, Lewis Herbert, expressing support for the Council’s policy of keeping Cambridge a compact city protected by its Green Belt. Mr Herbert is now a Queen Edith’s resident, by the way.

There’s an official announcement from the city council here and from South Cambridgeshire District Council here.

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